Dehydration, and the need for the human body to stay adequately hydrated is horribly misunderstood by the general public. With most of the U.S. consumed by a serious heat wave recently, it seems like the perfect time to re-emphasize the important of hydration, because it actually is a very big deal.
It’s fairly common knowledge that keeping the body hydrated is good for us, yet very few people make it a part of their daily nutrition regimen. This is really unfortunate because it is a fundamental component to good health.
Also common knowledge is the fact that the human body can only survive for about 3 days without water. If you are deprived of water that long, organs start shutting down and you die…..not good, right?
I Use to Be Naive About Hydration
During my years in Corporate America and working in an office, my idea of staying hydrated was drinking coffee and diet Coke throughout the day. If I was extra thirsty I would pour the diet Coke in a cup and add ice. What was I thinking!?!
Water simply wasn’t on my radar. Based on how little water most of my clients drink when they first come to me, and how little importance they place on staying hydrated, I’d say it doesn’t rank as radar-worthy for a lot of people. For this reason, and in spite of the eye-rolling and sighing I get when I bring it up, drinking water is usually one of the first things I start with when I begin working with a new client.
How Much is Enough Water?
On average, people should be consuming about half their body weight in ounces of water every day, preferably filtered or purified. As an example, someone who weighs 140 pounds should drink about 70 ounces of hydrating fluids per day. There are some exceptions to this rule, however. Anyone suffering with kidney disease, congestive heart failure or taking diuretics for medical purposes should drink less – about 25 – 30% of their body weight in ounces (always check with your doctor with these types of conditions).
Why is water so important?
About 70% of our body is made-up of water. If we don’t consume enough of it each and every day, the body can quickly become dehydrated and the various internal systems cannot do their jobs. Most of us know this stuff and still don’t take the time to drink enough water every day, which tells me that many of you don’t believe that dehydration is that big of a deal, but it is. So here’s more information that hopefully will convince you.
Biological Functions of Water
Below are just a few of the very critical functions water performs in the body.
- acts as a lubricant for joints
- lubricates the food we eat so swallowing is easy and food gets digested properly
- helps with absorption of nutrients from food we eat
- removes wastes
- helps in production of blood and regulation of blood pressure
- required in every chemical reaction during the digestive process
- required for regulation of body temperature
Recognize Common Health Conditions Linked to Dehydration
Inability to lose weight
Decreased motor control
Problems with attention span
Urinary tract infections
Did you know that dehydration can have such a dramatic impact on the human body that it can easily be mistaken for dementia and other health conditions, especially in the elderly? (McGuire & Beerman, 2013)
Tips On Staying Hydrated
What is the best way to maintain proper fluid levels? It’s simple — JUST DRINK WATER. Filtered, purified or distilled are the best choices.
Fluid levels will increase slightly by eating certain types of fruit, meats, and drinking herbal teas, but it’s not enough to thoroughly hydrate you.
Make a mental note to yourself not to wait to drink water until you’re thirsty. By the time you notice being thirsty your body is usually already dehydrated.
Not All Fluids are Hydrating
To stay properly hydrated every day, you need to know what beverages (and foods) are hydrating and which ones aren’t. Here it is, plain and simple:
Sodas, beer, coffee, or alcoholic beverages
DECREASE your body’s fluid levels,
they do not increase them.
There are also foods that are DE-hydrating, such as chocolate, foods high in protein, asparagus, certain types of herbs. You don’t need to avoid dehydrating foods altogether (although most people would be much better off health-wise if you got rid of some of the junk food!). Just be aware that there are beverages and foods that don’t count toward your daily water intake.
You should also be aware that some things can cause the body to become dehydrated faster than normal. Things like sweating for a prolonged period of time, exercising, and some health conditions like frequent diarrhea – all require an increase in your normal water consumption in order to restore electrolyte balance and homeostasis in the body.
Correcting Poor Hydration Habits
Correcting your fluid intake is a tough habit to change! Habits are always difficult to change and this one is no different. Even veteran water drinkers will admit to falling off the hydration wagon now and then. I recommend to my clients that they purchase one or two water containers (preferably glass to avoid those BPAs!) and get in the habit of carrying it with you wherever you go. Know how much water it contains and calculate how many times each day you need to refill it in order to reach the number of ounces you should be drinking.
And please don’t forget about your kids and pets! Dehydration can make them just as sick as an adult, and water is essential for healthy development of a child’s brain, muscles, bones and other organs.
So start drinking H2O! You will put your health on a fast-track to well-being, while providing a much-needed nutrient to every cell in your body. You’ll notice the difference, just watch.
Wishing you health and happiness!
Note: This information is provided as a resource and for educational purposes only. These recommendations are not intended as a substitute for consulting a physician or licensed healthcare practitioner. Individuals dealing with a serious or chronic health issue should consult with your doctor before beginning a nutritional program, taking supplements, discontinuing medications or eliminating foods from your daily diet. This information is not intended to replace medical advice from your doctor or to diagnose any health condition.
McGuire, Michelle and Beerman, Kathy A. (2013, 2011) Nutritional Sciences, From Fundamentals to Food, Third Edition. California: Wadsworth Cengage Learning